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Jail for thieving unlicensed builder

9 June 2020

An unlicensed builder who treated client deposits like his own personal bank account has been sentenced to seven months imprisonment, following a prosecution by the state’s consumer watchdog.

An unlicensed builder who treated client deposits like his own personal bank account has been sentenced to seven months imprisonment, following a prosecution by the state’s consumer watchdog.

In the Christies Beach Magistrates Court, 30 year old Andrew James Laundy admitted stealing more than $24,000 in client deposits for building work that he never even started. 

He pleaded guilty to six counts of theft, four counts of accepting payment and failing to provide goods or services within a reasonable time and one count of carrying on business as a building work contractor without a licence. 

The court heard Laundy advertised a business he called “Creative Scapes” and preyed on consumers who placed “tradie wanted” ads on sites like Gumtree and Airtasker. 

He provided quotes and accepted deposits from 9 consumers, but did no work at all for 5 consumers and the remaining jobs were either substandard or incomplete. 

Laundy offered various excuses to consumers as to why he couldn’t attend their premises to undertake the work – such as he had been delayed by overruns in other jobs, his car wouldn’t start and he had to attend a funeral. 

When confronted by one consumer, who had paid Laundy $5,600 to install retaining walls and fencing, Laundy paid back $1,500. 

The court was told that this was the only money he had repaid to any of the consumers he had scammed. 

The court heard that the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs had previously issued a public warning against Laundy in 2015, urging consumers not to deal with him, and subsequently prosecuted Laundy in 2017 for consumer law breaches. 

Following fresh complaints received from consumers in early 2019, the Commissioner chose to issue an unprecedented second warning. 

“Laundy’s pattern of offending was clear – every time he ran low on funds, he would simply accept another deposit, without ever starting the work,” Commissioner for Consumer Affairs Dini Soulio said. 

Magistrate Susan O’Connor said Laundy lived “out of a bank account of other people’s money” and mirrored similar offending in 2017, where he took consumers’ funds for his own convenience, living off it with dismal performance of any building work. 

She said these offences were more serious, with the loss to consumers even greater, sentencing Laundy to seven months, three weeks in prison – with the final three months to be served on a good behaviour bond. 

Mr Soulio urged consumers to do their homework before hiring a tradie. 

“Our public register can help people find out quickly whether or not the person is licensed to do the job,” he said. 

“The sad reality is that in this case, some people only learned of Laundy’s history and the fact he was unlicensed because they did a google search after they’d already given him money. 

“This is why consumers should always check before engaging a tradesperson.” 

To check the register, head to https://www.cbs.sa.gov.au/find-a-licence-holder